The Incompetent Cook Road Tests… Eat In by Anna Gare

by |October 10, 2013

Every month Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach reviews a cookbook.

He is an incompetent cook.

He is The Incompetent Cook.

9781742663890Eat In
by Anna Gare

The meals:

Tomato and Pesto Soup

Chermoula Chicken with Harissa & Minted Yoghurt

Lemon and Lime Pudding

It’s time for another instalment of The Incompetent Cook. This week I road test Eat In by Anna Gare, the star of Junior Masterchef and The Great Australian Bake Off.

(scroll below for the winner of last month’s Incompetent Cook Challenge)


Tomato and Pesto Soup

It might surprise many fans of The Incompetent Cook that I have, on occasion, partaken in a Tomato Soup of a chilly evening. It may surprise you less that it was largely a ploy to include large amounts of buttered bread into my diet. I also enjoy pesto for similar reasons. The combination of these two loves proved too tempting to pass up.

Making soup has always frightened me. It seems like such a delicate balance between tasty and gruel, or as my mother describes some of my dishes, ‘Very interesting’. My fears were allayed recently when I did a stellar job on (didn’t totally destroy) a Hearty Chicken Soup and decided to take the plunge again.

The first thing I’ll say about this recipe (and all the recipes in this beautifully set out cookbook) is that the dishes smell extraordinary in the embryonic stages. Sure, the scents are gorgeous after the dishes are done, but the smell of fresh tomato, onion and garlic wafting through the house was enough to make people think I was…well…good at this.

image_4And thank goodness for the food processor. Once I’d reduced the delicious staples of the soup down a notch, and added sour cream, the food processor entered the party. A friend once implored me not to get one because, and I quote: ‘it’s really sharp and someone like you will hurt yourself’. 3 rounds in and I still have all my fingers. Take that concerned friend!

I pressed the on button. I pressed the off button. I took a towel. I wiped my face. I took the lid from the cupboard and put it on. I pressed the on button again.

It was the first tomato soup I’ve made and I’m stoked. The most satisfying part about cooking with no skill is that you never see a dish truly come together until the final stages, like an mural on Art Attack (if you don’t get that reference, I’m immensely disappointed). Quick, easy and delicious.


Chermoula Chicken with Harissa & Minted Yoghurt

I’ll be honest. I had no idea what Chermoula or Harissa was. If I could have guessed I would say Chermoula was a ship used for piracy in the 1600s, and Harissa was some form of skin blemish.

Shockingly, I was wrong on both accounts.

Chermoula is a Moroccan marinade, while Harissa is a Tunisian chilli sauce used on its own or to make a form of Chermoula. Usually when the phrase chilli is used and not prefixed by ‘sweet’ or followed by ‘dog’, I run for the hills, but the picture in Eat In just looked so damn good! I had to try it.

And my old frenemy the food processor got a run again. Making the Harissa first, and then incorporating part of it to make the Chermoula, I have to say, was pretty spectacular. The Harissa is a gorgeous deep red, certainly not as hot as you might think. Packed with lentils, the earthy, middle-eastern smells filled the kitchen. It was delightful. I put some aside to be used with the chicken and other things a cultured chap like I might use for dips like wafers biscuits bread Twisties.

Chermoula is a herby concoction full of lemon, garlic, parsley, coriander, the list goes on. It’s a beauty. Joining forces with the red Harissa I poured it into a bowl filled with juicy chicken thighs and got my hand mix on. If you read last month’s instalment, in which my small, squat hands and the difficulties such extremities present were discussed, mixing in marinade and meat was the payoff where the ‘chimp hands’ really come into their own.

And that was basically it. After marinating in the fridge for what have been the longest hour of my life, I seared the fillets for a couple of minutes in the pan and whacked them onto a baking tray and into the oven.

And when they were done, the taste of that chicken, my word. How, after all that prep, and storage, and heat and time, could those herbs still cut through the meat in such a sharp, fresh way, it still amazes me. What a dish. Try it, you must.


Lemon and Lime Pudding

Lemon. Lime. Pudding.

It sounds like Christmas.

The promise of a dessert that would allay any fears my parents have of me getting scurvy (believe me, the possibility has been discussed) was too good to pass up.

Eat In gives you the option of using a few small baking bowls (ideally) to cook the pudding in, or a large baking dish for desserts (just as good).

Due to not possessing either of those things The Incompetent Cook chose to use a ceramic serving bowl, usually reserved for savoury snacks. He thought the seperate segments of said bowl would serve as an appropriate combination of both options.

Yes, I was wrong, but I got lucky, and no serving bowls were hurt in the making of this pudding.

Anna’s Lemon and Lime Pudding calls for oodles of juice and rind, along with a generous serving of milk. Having (surprisingly) not made many puddings in my time, the fear was that the wet would outnumber the solids. As one of the few fans of Kevin Costner’s misunderstood masterpiece Waterworld, this filled me with dread. But after some anxious moments in the oven (the pudding, not myself), Eat In again proved to be a winner.

I loved it. Perfect with cream, so zesty. A great recipe.


Sure, Eat In is a big, bright colourful cookbook. But it’s much more than that. For every simple family favourite there’s an exciting project dish you can use to expand your repertoire.

Filled with big flavours, every recipe has a huge personality (that’s a saying right?) and it screams EAT ME!

Eat In by Anna Gare is a fantastic cookbook, perfect for the incompetent (whomever that may be) and highly-skilled alike. Grab a copy today, you won’t be disappointed.

Click here to buy Eat In from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. His hobbies include falling asleep on trains and singing the wrong words to songs at karaoke. One day, he will be a better cook.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat


Last month Andrew road tested Bill Granger’s new book Bill’s Italian Food. We ran a competition to win a copy, and the lucky winner is Jean O’Regan from NSW.

Jean, please email us your details at and we’ll get your book out to you ASAP!

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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

Follow Andrew: Twitter


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